Why My Grief Belongs on the Internet

Public lament is more than just another hot take or social media rant.
Why My Grief Belongs on the Internet

After hearing the news that a Cleveland grand jury decided not to indict two police officers for the killing of 12-year old Tamir Rice, I thought of my own son. He’s five. He has bright brown eyes that can make me grin even when I’m grumpy. His boisterous energy at once exhausts and amuses any adult who has the privilege of spending time with him. His favorite game is “chase” because he just loves to run. Perhaps Tamir’s parents saw the same in their young child.

The similarities between my own son and Rice and the fact that we shared the same color skin made his death and the grand jury’s verdict painfully personal. But I felt uncertain about expressing my sorrow publicly. When I’ve let my sadness show in the past, instead of sympathizing, people have questioned the validity of my feelings. Particularly when it comes to racial issues, they’ve increased my grief with their disagreement and made me regret the choice to communicate my vulnerability.

Nevertheless, several days later I shared my pain in an essay, focusing on the fear I had for my son. I’ve been working for racial justice long enough to know there would be Christians who would disagree. But some comments still stung.

"What are black fathers doing allowing their children to mess with guns, even fake ones? ... If you allow your kids to behave like gangsters, they are going to get killed, whatever color they are,” one commenter wrote.

Another dismissed my essay because I hadn’t heard the testimony or evidence that the grand jury received.

“I would have hoped for more careful analysis from an [Reformed Theological Seminary] grad and staff member,” the commenter wrote.

As someone who has ...

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Why My Grief Belongs on the Internet
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